, Research Paper
The Causes of the French Revolution
True the ideas that were promoted by the philosphes were a contributor to The French Revolution but they were not the cause. The cause was the economic and social problems that faced France in those years of turmoil. There are many people who choose to disagree the Peyre thesis, I included. I believe that The French Revolution was caused by The Social and Economic woes of the days.
“The rule of the aristocracy lasts as long as the rural population continues to ignore or neglect the crafts, and the ownership of land continues to be the soul basis of wealth.” “When handicrafts and commerce take hold amoung the people and create a new source of wealth benefiting a new class of working people, this paves the way for a revolution in political structure. A new distribution of wealth opens the way to a new distribution of power. In the same way that the possession of land creates an aristocracy, industrial property increases the power of the people; it provides the means to achieve its freedom.” Antoine P. J. M. Barnave also believed that without the economic tribulations that were pending in France there would have been no need for change.
The third estate could be broken down into three parts: the rich (bourgeoisie), the middle (lawyers, doctors, businessmen), and the poor (the peasant, farmer). There was much change in the economic world of the third estate. For instance the bourgeois were gaining land and therefore making money. 35% of the land was left to the 22 to 23 million peasants, the bourgeoisie held about 30% of the land, the 350 000 members of the nobility held about 20% of the land, and left with an unequally shared 10% the 130 000 member of the clergy. This shows how much land the bourgeois actually had. They were making large amounts of money off this huge percentage of land. Like those today who make money they needed to be taxed, there was only one difference between now and then, they [the third estate] were the only ones being taxed. Being the only ones taxed the bourgeoisie were carrying France on their backs for the greater part of the 18th century. For this they wanted to gain ground into a better life “one associated with royal power” . According to the Aristocracy there was to be no hope for the bourgeoisie, they could not gain ground, ever. One had to be born into their social class, for them this was too bad. The Aristocracy believed that one could be as prosperous as they wanted and as prosperous as they could get but there was no way to socially climb the ladder. Because of this the bourgeoisie decided to look to the other members of the third estate, the peasants.
There was many other Economic woes that plagued France in the 18th century. There was much poverty throughout the country, but only within the poor part of the third estate. The first and second estates were well off and could not lose their fortunes to the taxes that the third estate paid. There was much turmoil between the rich and the poor. When the poor were getting prosperous the rich would not let them climb socially. Privalige was something that every man, woman, child wanted in the 18th century desired. This was never going tobe possible without some sort of upheavle in the political system that was inplace. “But in the eighteenth century the nobility like the aristocracy tended to close its ranks.” This did not allow for a prosperous person in the third estate to climb up to the second estate. After the enlightenment, social mobility was shown to be a great step into modern society. If one could move socially then there was hope into their future that one could better their lives to make them easier and more prosperous. Without this social upheaval there would be no means to the revolution.
During the eighteenth century, France went through many years of economic disorder. France’s treasury had been drained throughout the years through frivolous spending, wars, and lack of fund rejuvenation. Louis XIV, XV, and XVI had been spending big throughout their years as head of state. Many years of their frivolous spending had drained the French treasury, over extravagant state dinners, new palace building, restoration, and inane amounts of money spent on personal artifacts and private spending.
Wars throughout the eighteenth century also had drained the French treasury. Many countries had been through large wars with France. Their budget on their army was gastronomical, their war-debt was extensive and to pay for all of these they [France] went strait to the treasury. The reconstruction of the torn war zones were rebuilt by France, again France looked to the treasury.
All of these huge amounts of money that were taken from the treasury, this leads to a treasury drain sooner or later. Whether or not the head of state realized that without proper restoration one day, they would turn to the treasury and it would be bare. The Third Estate was the only class in France that was being taxed in the eighteenth century. The bourgeoisie were in the upper social and economic class of The Third Estate. The bourgeoisie and the peasants of the third estate were the economic backbone of France during the eighteenth century. Although one can look and suppose that the 24 500 000 people that were part of the third estate could easily hold the economy of France would suppose wrong. 96% of those in the third estate were peasants and were in only the 1% tax bracket of a miniscule income. The other 4% of the third estate were the main economic backbone of France. The bourgeoisie were holding up the legs of France and all that they wanted was to “Suppress privilege and acquire equal rights.”
The economic upheaval of France could have been attributed to the political blunders and intellectual advancements of the eighteenth century. The American Revolution sent many messages to the third estate that through force one could change the wrongs that they saw happening around them. Without the social and economic problems that faced those 24 500 000 people there would be no need to listen to the intellectual thoughts of the philosphes. Also the political change that took place for the better and the worsening of the future of France would not have been needed if there was no social and economic woes in the country.
Although the Political and intellectual factors of the revolution ave wood to the fire the social and economic problems were the spark to that fire that lead to the greatest revolution of all times. “What the Revolution was less than anyhting else was a chance event. While it is a true that it took the world by surprise, nevertheless it was only the culmination of a long period of travail-the sudden and violent termination of an enterprse on which men had laboured for ten generations.” On this I belive that the social and economic disorder that took place in France in the eighteenth century was the cause of the revolution.